by Philip Lenczycki
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censored, fined, politically indoctrinated and forcibly disappeared Chinese Christians in 2022, according to a new report from the nonprofit ChinaAid Tuesday.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) reportedly employed a range of new methods to persecute Chinese Christians in 2022 including fabricating charges of fraud as well as criminalizing the legal international travel of church leaders, the report states. China’s crackdown on Christianity reportedly intensified in the run-up to the CCP’s 20th Party Congress in October 2022, during which time General Secretary Xi Jinping secured a third term as the communist nation’s supreme leader, according to ChinaAid.
“Xi Jinping and the Communist Party did all they could to silence Christians leading up to the 20th National Congress,” Jonathan Dingler, a spokesman for ChinaAid who worked on the report, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Christians account for approximately 5% of China’s religious community, according to the CIA World Factbook. While Catholics number around 10 million, Protestants account for the majority of China’s Christian community, with approximately 38 million followers as of 2020, The Economist reported.
Dingler told the DCNF that after the CCP’s crackdown leading up to the 20th Party Congress “the tone shifted” within the state-sanctioned churches which then began treating Xi “as if he were the leader of the church.”
ChinaAid identified a March 2022 paper entitled “Adhering to the Sinicization of Religion in China” published by the United Front Work Department (UFWD) as the political motivation behind the CCP’s 2022 crackdown on Christianity.
The UFWD is a “Chinese government entity charged with extending the CCP’s influence and control over non-Party organizations both domestically and abroad to advance CCP policy objectives,” according to a 2021 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC). Moreover, the USCC also identified the UFWD as a “Chinese intelligence service” in 2016.
The UFWD’s March 2022 paper reportedly emphasized “promoting the Sinicization of religion, adhering to the orientation of the core socialist values and submerging all religious beliefs in Chinese culture to better adapt religion to China’s socialist society and the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” according to ChinaAid.
“Sinicization is the government’s attempt to make a more CCP-friendly church,” Dingler told the DCNF. “Not only should they submit to the Party’s demands, but they must also actively support socialism.”
“However, last year we observed that now Sinicization requires even more: undying allegiance to Xi Jinping,” Dingler said.
China’s state-sanctioned churches must now actively promote Xi’s thoughts “from the pulpit,” which in practice means that churches which don’t “flat-out fall at Xi’s feet and worship him are considered ‘inciting subversion of state power,’” Dingler told the DCNF.
Churches were reportedly even converted into political propaganda centers in order to broadcast Xi’s speech during the 20th Party Congress in October 2022, according to ChinaAid’s report. Likewise, churches in Jiangsu, Sichuan and other provinces were also reportedly repurposed to hold “study” sessions on CCP policies such as “Reinforcing Management of Religion on All Fronts: 10 Prohibitions and 10 Mustn’ts.”
The Chinese government also increasingly persecuted Christians online in 2022, censoring words like “Jesus,” “Savior” and “Amen” on the Chinese social media platform WeChat, according to ChinaAid’s report. At the same time, the Chinese government also shut down church websites and Christians’ social media accounts.
“Congregants can’t even give to their churches online anymore, thanks to new regulations,” Dingler said. “They want to break down house churches even further, hoping they will finally give in and submit.”
However, the full extent of the CCP’s crackdown remains unclear to ChinaAid, Dingler told the DCNF.
“ChinaAid does not have a truly accurate sense of how many Christians are affected by persecution, whether that be imprisonment or forced disappearance,” said Dingler. “Throughout the years it has been harder and harder to get a clear number because so many churches are afraid to share their lived persecution experiences with us due to the CCP.”
“Seeing the cases that come in day-by-day, I can’t say I blame them,” he added.
The Chinese Embassy did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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Philip Lenczycki is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Chinese Christian Female” by Huang Jinhui. CC BY-SA 4.0.